Kagemusha Taiko

Kagemusha Taiko

Exeter, Devon, England

Founded 1998

Basic Information

    Lead development of taiko in the U.K.

Background Information


To enrich people's lives through the experience of taiko drumming. This involves not just performance but work to get taiko established in the U.K., with significant training and teacher-training programmes, and the promotion of what we hope will become an annual taiko festival - see: www.taikofestival.org.uk

Describe the ensemble's organizational structure and philosophy, including leadership structure, membership policy, and instructional process.

Kagemusha Taiko is an arts-education company managed by Jonathan and Gabrielle Kirby. Kagemusha Taiko Group is led by Jonathan Kirby, who is also the lead trainer. Regular training is given to Kagemusha Junior Taiko Group, who are split into three sections (fundamentals, core, advanced), Kagemusha Taiko Group, and Tano Taiko, the company's communit-based adult group. Emma Pipe shares training duties with Jonathan Kirby, and other group members assist on a voluntary basis.

Group History
Describe how, where, and why the ensemble was founded. What was its inspiration?

Jonathan Kirby, the founder and artistic director of Kagemusha Taiko, is a long-time drummer who followed San Jose Taiko's Audition Process in 1996-97. The sheer joy of this, combined with its principled and grounded approach, led him to return to his native UK with a mission to bring the experience of taiko to as many people as possible.
There are a handful of other groups in the UK, but Kagemusha Taiko is unique in tracing its inspiration to North American Taiko rather than to Japan.


List the instructors, teachers and mentors who have worked with the ensemble.

Roy and PJ Hirabayashi of San Jose Taiko have been the main inspiration over the years.

Taiko Collaborators
List a selection of taiko players or groups that have collaborated with the ensemble.

Grand Master Daihachi Oguchi and Osuwa Daiko, Hanayui, Yoneyama Maruyama Daiko, Wajima Kiriko Daiko, Art Lee and Marco Lienhard have all worked or performed with Jonathan Kirby and/or Kagemusha Taiko.

List a selection of publicly accessible audio and/or video recordings featuring the ensemble.

"Spirit of the Drum" is a 40min VHS recorded live in concert in March 2003 and features four pieces performed by Kagemusha Taiko Group, cut with footage of rehearsals and the scenery from the city of Exeter. This is available in NTSC format.
"Introduction to Taiko Vol 1", and "Vol 2" are instructional videos made by Jonathan Kirby and Emma Pipe with the participation of Kagemusha Junior Taiko. With "Teach Your Group 'the Edge of Magic'" and "Teach Your Group 'Fearless'", two further instructional videos which come complete with training manuals, these comprise a suite of videos that have proved successful in helping teachers start their own groups around the U.K. These videos are only available in PAL format (Europe and Australia).

List a selection of articles, master's theses, dissertations, or other publications written about the ensemble.

Kagemusha Taiko education projects have been monitored and evaluated by the (National Foundation for) Youth Music and by the School of Education, University of Exeter. This has involved reports on the educational benefits of taiko with relation to teenage boys at risk of exclusion from school, and the difficulty of establishing a new musical performance art form in a country where it has no tradition or ethnic base on which to build.

Describe the ensemble's musical and performance styles.

Kagemusha Taiko are committed to the development of an original, English style of taiko. While working to understand and respect the history and traditions of taiko in Japan and North America, the group does not seek to copy it. So, while influences from around the world may be seen and heard in a Kagemusha Taiko performance, our aim is for such performances to be original and distinctive.

Please include title, composer, date of composition, special reason(s) for composition, and what the work represents to the group.

SlipJig and Whirligig, both by Jonathan Kirby, are the two pieces which are most strongly rooted in English folk song and dance. As such, they are the most clearly "English" taiko.


Jonathan Kirby
P.O.Box 128
Exeter, --, Devon, GB


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